Correspondent (Delhi) FICCI’s Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy (CASCADE) applauds the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), who in a major haul seized foreign brand cigarettes worth Rs 11.88 crore from a container at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai on June 12, 2020. This is one of the biggest seizures since lockdown. Amid lockdown, several cases of seizures by enforcement agencies of smuggled imported cigarettes have been reported indicating a spike in cigarette smuggling over the last few months. The trend is nationwide, with seizures intercepted via road transport, in cargo and passenger luggage.
Congratulating the officers of DRI, Mr. Anil Rajput, Chairman, FICCI CASCADE said “Cigarette smuggling is a big racket across the globe and India continues to remain a hot bed for this menace. Even as the country is grappling with the coronavirus crisis, the seizures of such goods remain high. The efforts made by the officers who are working under the current challenging circumstances is indeed commendable”.
For developing countries, widespread smuggling has a particularly debilitating effect on efforts to improve domestic resource mobilization, by denying tax revenues, which subsequently affect government spending on healthcare, education, infrastructure etc. Not only does smuggling dent government exchequer but also threatens local industries on which depends livelihood of many. In a recent study by FICCI CASCADE, it had estimated that over 16 lacs jobs were lost in India (in 5 industry sectors) in 2017-18 due to smuggling, out of which about 3.34 lacs of job loss was due to smuggling of cigarettes.
The government of India has taken several decisive steps to address this issue. Inspite of several measures, further steps are required, both in the form of policy intervention and awareness generation. FICCI CASCADE in its recommendations to curb illicit trade to government earlier this year had suggested a reward scheme for the officers to be put in place for tobacco on the same lines like narcotics and psychotropic substances which are also destroyed after seizure. The amount of reward in such cases could depend on a flat rate linked to the quantity of goods seized and the gravity of offence involved. Further, modernization of the infrastructure and equipment’s being used by customs was also suggested so that foolproof methods of clearance of goods are introduced, thereby raising the capacity of Indian customs. These recommendations were based out of the deliberations of CASCADE’s annual international symposium MASCRADE (Movement Against Smuggled and Counterfeit Trade) which was held in September 2019.
Illicit trade is the world’s largest growing industry and its size is estimated to range between $650 million to $3 trillion according to multiple studies, representing 10% of global trade. Besides unemployment and massive financial losses, it also creates large scale destabilization by fomenting crime and funding insurgency and terrorism. FICCI CASCADE has been over the years working closely with government, industry, enforcement officials, legal fraternity, consumer organizations and the consumers to create awareness on the adverse impact of this menace.